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Sun Exposure Signs And Risks Paddlers Should Look Out For

When you are paddling on a beautiful sunny day it’s easy to lose track of time. One hour can turn to two in what seems like an instant. Then suddenly you realize you have been on the open water for three or four hours. While this, in theory, is the foundation of a memorable day of paddling, it can also be quite dangerous if you don’t consider sun exposure.

Sun exposure is one of the most serious dangers facing paddlers, especially those who are newer to water sports. It is also a danger that is hidden in plain sight. Even when the air temperature is cool and there is no direct sunlight, harmful UV rays can cause irreparable damage to your skin, and threaten your health. This is why it’s critical you know the top warning signs and symptoms of overexposing yourself to the sun.

Some common signs of over-exposure to the sun from paddling include sudden headaches, lightheadedness and dizziness, tingling skin, and even nausea. Some ways to prevent these symptoms include covering your body with protective clothes or wearing sunscreen. Try to take breaks in shaded areas, choose days with less sun to paddle, or paddle in the early morning or late afternoons when the sun is less strong.

Four Reasons To Avoid Unnecessary Sun Exposure

Before diving into the warning signs of sun exposure, it is important to know some of the potential long-lasting effects it can cause. After all, while a sunburn might be painful and unpleasant for a few days, you must understand that consistently over-exposing yourself to the sun when paddling can have irreversible and potentially life-threatening consequences.

1. Change In Skin Texture

One common result of continued sun exposure is a change in your skin texture. If you are constantly paddling exposed to the sun without protection your days of smooth and soft skin are numbered. It is quite common for skin to turn rough and harder to the touch.

2. Deterioration Of Eyesight

While many people think about skin damage when they hear about sun exposure, the eyes are just as vulnerable to harmful UV rays. Harmful UV rays can cause cataract formation, and severely damage your eyes. You can have cornea damage as well. This can cause your eyesight to significantly worsen much sooner than it would have otherwise.

3. Premature Wrinkles And Discoloration

If you are interested in holding on to what remains of your youthful exterior, then it is best to make enemies with direct sunlight. This is because too much sun exposure when paddling can lead to wrinkles, especially on your face. You may also be more prone to sun spots and other skin discoloration issues.

4. Skin Cancer

Lastly, sun exposure over time can have fatal consequences in the form of skin cancer. While most types of skin cancer are treatable, especially if diagnosed quickly, these cancers can also be fatal. If for no other reason, make sure you protect yourself from the sun while paddling to help ensure a long healthy life.

How To Know When You Have Paddled Too Long In The Sun

You Begin To Feel A Headache

One common sign of too much sun is the sudden development of a headache. This is especially true if you are not prone to headaches normally. If you notice a headache coming on, you should head to shore, and hydrate. Headaches are signs of sun exposure, but can also mean dehydration or even be caused by a heat-related illness - or a combination.

You Feel Sick To Your Stomach

Another possible sign of dangerous levels of sun exposure is nausea. If you find yourself sick to your stomach, regardless of the cause, you should head to shore immediately. You never know if your symptoms will worsen. If they do worsen you may find it even more challenging to paddle to safety. Don’t ignore this symptom, as it is a serious one.

Your Skin Hurts Or Feels Tingly

Your skin is the organ that is usually most exposed and vulnerable to sun exposure, so it makes sense that it experiences some of the symptoms. When exposed to too much sun while paddling you might notice your skin begin to hurt. It might not hurt, but instead, it could tingle. If you notice your skin starting to hurt or tingle, cover up your body immediately, hydrate, and consider ending your paddle prematurely.

You Become Dizzy Or Lightheaded

One of the most dangerous signs of too much sun exposure is dizziness or lightheadedness. If you feel either of these symptoms you should seek safety immediately. If you are paddling with a buddy make sure you communicate your symptoms.

The reason for this is dizziness and lightheadedness can lead to fainting in some cases. Fainting while paddling can have fatal consequences if you aren’t careful. Make sure you are always wearing your PFD and don’t over-exert yourself as you make your immediate return to shore.

Five Easy Ways To Avoid Getting Much Sun When Paddling

1. Cover Up Your Body

One of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent overexposure to the sun while paddling is to cover yourself up. It might feel natural and comfortable to kayak shirtless on a beautiful sunny day, but it is not a wise wardrobe choice.

If you are planning on a paddle longer than an hour you should have sun protection for as much of your body as possible. A breathable long-sleeved shirt, wide-brimmed hat, and UV-protectant sunglasses are great items to help protect yourself from the sun while paddling.

2. Check The Weather

One thing you can always count on with the weather is that it will change. The odds are there will be a day with clouds and less oppressive sun in a day or two. Try and plan your long-distance paddling journeys on days when the UV index is on the lower side. This is a great way to reduce your risk of too much harmful sun exposure.

3. Wear Effective Sunscreen

Sunscreen is a paddler’s best friend. It is a no-brainer that you should always apply sunscreen before paddling. But you should also be familiar with the effectiveness of your specific type of sunscreen. Know if it is water and sweat-resistant. You should also know how often it should be re-applied. This is particularly crucial for those going on longer journeys.

4. Avoid Peak Sunlight Hours

Another easy tip to help keep you safe from the sun is to paddle in the early morning and late afternoon. The sun’s rays are usually much weaker at these hours, which means the damage will be far less. The temperatures also tend to be lower at these times of day. There also tends to be less boat traffic in many paddling destinations, which is another perk. You may even want to give paddling at night a try.

5. Take Breaks In The Shade

If you are paddling along the shore or on a lake or river, consider taking breaks that incorporate some natural shade. Instead of taking your lunch break floating on the exposed water, enjoy some time out of the sun. This will allow you to properly hydrate. It also gives you a chance to assess your skin and notice if your body feels different.

Wrapping Up How To Spot And Avoid Sun Exposure When Paddling

It is a great feeling when you notice blue skies on a morning when you plan to embark on a paddling journey. Clear skies often mean favorable weather, great photos, and dry conditions. But before you reach for your paddle, make sure you also take the steps to protect yourself from the sun and know the warning signs of sun exposure. Headache, nausea, and dizziness are all potentially dangerous signs of over-exposure to harmful UV rays. Remember to wear protective clothing, and sunscreen, and try paddling in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is less strong.


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